Lanoe Hawker

From Academic Kids

Lanoe George Hawker (VC, DSO) (December 30, 1890 – November 23, 1916) was a World War I English fighter pilot. He was the third pilot to receive the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Originally in the Royal Engineers, by 1915 Hawker was a Captain in No. 6 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps. On 22nd April he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order for attacking a German zeppelin shed at Gontrode with hand grenades.

On 25 July 1915 when on patrol over Passchendaele, Captain Hawker attacked three German aircraft in succession. The first, after he had emptied a complete drum of bullets into it, went spinning down. The second was driven to the ground damaged, and the third, which he attacked at a height of about 10,000 feet, burst into flames and crashed. For this feat he was awarded the Victoria Cross. This particular sortie was just one of the many courageous exploits which Captain Hawker had undertaken during almost a year of constant operational flying and fighting.

He later achieved the rank of Major. On 23 November 1916, while flying an Airco DH-2 near Bapaume, France, he was killed in action following a lengthy dog fight with Manfred von Richthofen, becoming the German ace's 11th victim. Hawker had broken away from the combat and was attempting to return to Allied lines. Von Richthofen's guns jammed 50 yards from the lines but a bullet from his last burst struck Hawker in the head. Hawker had achieved eight victories in aerial combat and can be considered Britain's first ace.

It has been said that shooting down three aircraft in one mission was a feat repeated several times by later pilots, and so whether Hawker deserved a Victoria Cross has been questioned. However, firstly, in mid-1915 it was unusual to shoot down even one aircraft, and the VC was awarded on the basis that all the enemy planes had machine guns. Secondly, and more significantly, later fighter pilots had machine guns that fired through the propellor by means of a "synchronizer gear" that prevented bullets striking the propellor. Therefore they could aim the whole aircraft, thus presenting a small target to the enemy while approaching from any angle, preferably from a blind spot where the enemy observer could not fire back. Hawker was operating before the British had a workable synchronizer gear, and so his aircraft (Bristol Scout C, serial number 1611) had its machine gun mounted on the left side of the cockpit, firing forwards and sideways at a 45 degree angle so as to avoid the propeller. Therefore, the only direction from which he could attack an enemy was from its right rear quarter - precisely the direction from which it was easiest for the observer to return fire. So, in each of the three attacks, Hawker was in the direct line of fire from an enemy machine gun: which would easily qualify him for a Victoria Cross award.

Hawker's Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon.


External links

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This page has been migrated from the Victoria Cross Reference ( with Hawker pl:Lanoe Hawker


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